Elf Boy's Friends - VII
The Capital Some Months Later
"Well, well, look who are back!" Drew Altair said to his reportorial colleague the former 'cub reporter' Corwin Klarendes at the offices of their news-paper, the Capital Intelligencer.
As the trio of uniformed visitors walked into the city room the young raven haired beauty in the lead waved cheerily and called out:
"Hi fellas! It's been too long, hasn't it?"
"Isn't that the truth? I see Liam that you have brought along your two partners in crime: Sir Axel Wilde, wizard's aide extraordinaire, and that dashing young naval hero Lieutenant Sir Nathan Lathrop of Cavendish."
"We traveled through a space portal which Sir Willet opened just for us!" Axel enthused, adding:
"He sends his regards, but he went straight home for a well-deserved rest. The campaign in Amazonia has been tough on all of us. Fighting takes a lot out of you."
"I'm just glad you three came back in once piece, especially you Nathan, who once actually did lose a piece of yourself to the trolls."
"Ouch! Don't remind me."
Nathan had had the lower part of his left leg severed just above the ankle by a troll axe, during the Petrel's celebrated single ship action against a flotilla of longships. He regrew it a couple of years later thanks to the healing magic of the druids and magical Healers.
"Corwin and I are eager to turn the tale of your adventures into a series of articles. Sure, we already know the big picture of the campaign, but you three were participants and eyewitnesses to history. Right Corwin?"
"Right, but journalism aside, I need you guys to tell me everything I should know about staying alive when fighting trolls: all their tricks and tactics. It will soon be my turn to go to Amazonia as a war correspondent."
"There is not that much that I, as a naval officer, can tell you Corwin on that score." Nathan began. "Liam and Axel were the ones fighting on the front lines. I stayed on the Petrel the whole time, patrolling the coast and protecting the harbors we had seized."
"Don't sell yourself short, Nathan." Liam protested. "Thanks to you, the Petrel frustrated raids on our ships no less than three times. On moonless nights with their skins darkened with burnt cork the trolls paddled small boats toward our anchored and docked vessels."
Nathan picked up the tale
"It was so dark their boats were invisible on the water while the trolls could discern our masts and rigging against the night sky. They were confident that our lookouts would not see them , but I delved their approach every time. Under silent routine we went to general quarters and got ready to repel boarders then met them with fire and steel. Then we attacked the raiders heading for other ships with our catapults and ballistas. None of them survived."
Seeing the puzzled look on Drew's face, Nathan explained:
"Most folks don't realize that my gift lets me delve through air even more easily than through the water and earth. In daylight there is no need to delve what I can see with my own eyes, but at night it is a different story. Anyway that was how we thwarted the raiders."
"Which is why Nathan was once again Mentioned in Dispatches." Liam said proudly. "That make three times now."
"Liam is too modest to mention that both he and Axel were also Mentioned in Dispatches. Axel saved Sir Willet's life from a trio of assassins who popped out of holes in the ground, and Liam jumped through a one-man portal to an exposed position on a knoll from where he could rake troll reinforcements with white fire. Only his Missile Shield kept him from being skewered by a hundred arrows. I understand the commanding general has put him in for an upgrade to one of the top awards."
"You must tell us the whole story of your adventures." Drew urged
"Fine, but not till we get some food in our bellies. And it's high time we whetted our whistles too. To keep our heads clear for combat only small beer and soft cider are allowed anywhere close to the FEBA, which is the Army acronym for the Forward Edge of the Battle Area, though soldiers call it the Bleeding Edge."
Drew enthused. "That's exactly the kind of color we need for our reporting. Anyway let's collect the twins and pick this up again at the Sign of the Whale."
The Sign of the Whale was a popular tavern on the edge of Twinkle Town. Named after the cute twinks who were its most notable denizens, Twinkle Town was a district or rather a cluster of dining, drinking, and dancing establishments favored by males who fancied pretty boys and by pretty boys who favored being fancied.
"OK, but what about Eike?" Nathan asked.
"We won't see him till after supper. He has been working late every day on something hush hush. He won't say a word."
"Sounds intriguing, but I'll get the scuttlebutt out of him, if only in pillow talk." Nathan said confidently. Eike and Nathan had a strong bond, ever since the day Nathan had rescued the then fifteen old castaway from Huckleberry Island, though it wasn't till a couple of years later that they became lovers.
The Sign of the Whale had a well-deserved reputation for fine food and drink at reasonable prices. Konrad Quentin, the proprietor, welcomed the boys as regular customers and sat them at a round table on a veranda decorated with potted plants and hanging baskets of flowers. In the shade of the veranda and with a steady breeze blowing, the temperature was pleasantly warm rather than oppressively hot as it could be during the planet's closest approach to the sun on its annual swing around its elliptical orbit.
Cute serving boys rendered prompt and attentive service. An attraction in their own right, the lissome servers were dressed, if that is the word for it, in linen kilts that reached just past mid thigh only because they hung so low on their narrow hips as to reveal a couple of fingers of rear cleavage. The white fabric contrasted nicely with the sun bronzed skins of boys who spent their mornings outdoors exercising in the nude to keep themselves fit and presentable for their discerning clientele. Soft moccasins and a thin gold chain around the neck completed their ensembles.
At least the serving boys did wear something, which is more than could be said about the svelte wine boy who, by tradition, went about in the nude, the better for patrons to feel him up as he refilled their mugs, glasses, and goblets. Patrons could also arrange with the proprietor for assignations with the wine boys upstairs, which was quite a coveted perquisite of the job since the boys kept all but a fifth of their fees and all of their tips. The wine boys at the Sign of the Whale were in great demand since all three were elves.
Soon all the friends were digging into their food, washing everything down with cold beer. Inevitably one of the three just returned from the wars raised a mug and declared:
"As our friends the Frost Giants always say, cold beer is surely proof that the gods love us and want us to be happy!"
"Axel nodded and leaned back, the edge finally gone off his hunger. "And cold beer complements a meal so well." then he explained to the others. "This is the first real food we three have had in many weeks."
"What does the Army feed you, if not real food?" Corwin asked.
Axel grimaced and answered: "Field rations."
"That bad, eh?"
"You'll find out for yourself soon enough, Corwin."
"And don't expect Navy food to be any better, despite the reputation of Navy chow, which is largely undeserved, in my not so humble opinion." Nathan affirmed.
"Second the motion." Liam added.
"What most folks don't realize is that a ship is a floating firetrap. Practically everything is inflammable: hull, sails, ropes, and stores. That is why cook fires are kept small and never allowed to burn for long. Naval rations must be foods that can be cooked fast. That limits what even the best of cooks can do aboard ship."
"I hope they do better ashore in the mess hall," Corwin said.
"That's the mess DECK, Corwin. Mess hall is Army lingo." Liam pointed out. "And admittedly, it is better ashore."
"With food so bad, it's no wonder your uniforms hang loose on you." Drew observed. "I mean you guys have always been on the slender side which was why you always looked so good in your silks, but now you are practically skinny, you Axel in your Army greens and Nathan and Liam in your naval blues."
"And you boys look very professional in your white silks."
Drew wore one of his trademark sleeveless white silk tunics which looked sharp and professional yet still showed off and flattered the trim taut body he was so proud of. Corwin wore very much the same thing though his whites had green trimming on the end of the hem. No longer just a cub reporter, Corwin wanted to look the part.
Konrad Quentin was glad to see the circle of friends reunited. Though they shared adjoining suites on the third floor of a residential hotel, the boys' duties often took them away from the capital on dangerous missions.
Now they were all back in the capital and once again gracing his establishment. Word of their presence always drew the curious, the envious, and the lustful, which was good for business, especially at the bar which commanded a view of the veranda. And the seven friends were eminently worth watching as they sat together and talked and joked.
Looking no older than the tavern's serving boys this bevy of young beauties seated at the table were not all the same type. Some were quite short while the tallest were just over middle height. Among the taller ones was Liam the single dark haired youth seated on the far side. The others were blonds or red heads. The calendar might say that some were in their late twenties, but you couldn't tell it from their boyish good looks. Thanks to druidical healing magic they were, constitutionally speaking, still teenage youths and would remain that way for centuries.
A well-set up lad dressed in army greens, the young war wizard Liam was just about medium height and on the slender side but with a strong upper storey. He had wide shoulders and muscled arms from his former job as a teamster and more recently from hauling himself up in the rigging. Liam was blessed with the good looks of a raven-haired pretty boy with fine-boned features accented by a light sprinkling of freckles. He had the characteristic mismatched eyes of a war wizard; the left eye was blue and the right brown. His innate magic made his sight keener than normal, and he could see in the dark or rather very dim light like a cat.
Opposite him sat the famous twins Jemsen and Karel, who, as always, were seated side by side. Professional adventurers, they also held commissions as reserve captains in the Army of the Commonwealth of the Long River. Blessed by good looks and rendered ageless by druidic healing magic they were of medium height and with a well-defined musculature. Lithe and boyishly handsome and very blond, utterly alluring with their slender physiques and fine-boned features, they were visions of youthful male pulchritude, virtually exuding good health and sex appeal. Bronzed by the sun and with hair the color of cornsilk cropped close, the twins suggested nothing so much as a pair of palomino colts.
When they were out and about, skin clad like the elf-friends that they were, it was virtually impossible for anyone but their lovers to tell one twin from another. Hence, on occasions like the present, the twins wrapped their hips in color coded sarongs, as always green for Jemsen and blue for Karel. Early on they had worn a variety of colors, but that had just confused everyone.
The twins were the only youths seated at the table with their torsos bared to the hips, which displayed to advantage the taut musculature of their hard bodies. Like Liam they had strong upper stories for boys with such slender builds, the result of daily archery practice. The tight musculature of their chests and bellies were accented by small pink nipples and indented navels, serving as natural beauty marks.
On Liam's right sat Lieutenant Sir Nathan Lathrop in blue naval silks. Standing just a shade under Liam's height he had the willowy build of an elf though he was fully human. Nathan was boyishly cute, a freckle-faced carrot-topped youngster who looked far too young to be an officer in the Navy of the Commonwealth.
Opposite Nathan was the wizard's aide Sir Axel Wilde, another red head though his hair was the color of copper. Except for Corwin, Axel was the youngest of them all and more than a hand shorter than the twins. Slightly built and boyishly cute, with fair skin, his face was dominated by large green eyes set over heart-melting dimples. At his neck he wore the ensorcelled amulet which negated hostile magic directed at him.
The two reporters sat on opposite sides of the table, the better to take notes on the adventures told by the trio just return from Amazonia. Drew Altair was an impossibly cute twink with spiky auburn hair and narrow sideburns reaching below the ear lobe plus straight eyebrows with almost no curve to them. They framed a fine-boned face with a high forehead, chiseled jawline, and a perky nose slightly turned up at the end. Drew was slight in build, standing only five foot zero and weighing but a hundred pounds, yet his tiny frame was easily twice as strong as it looked, enhanced by the same druidical healing magic that had lengthened his life and prolonged his youth.
His colleague Corwin Klarendes was a cute blond youth just a little younger than Axel. Short, slight of build, clean limbed, and standing a few inches over five feet, he was blessed with fine-boned features and green eyes that suggested a considerable admixture of elfin blood in his ancestry like all those in the Klarendes clan including his uncle Count Taitos Klarendes, Count of the Eastern March.
And it wasn't just their good looks that made the proprietor gratified to know them and count them as friends. More than their varied gifts, magical and otherwise, it was their character. This was a great bunch of kids, nice kids, good kids. They were unfailingly friendly and unpretentious despite their fame and wealth. Also caring, public spirited, and loyal to their friends, their country, and the progressive races on the planet of Haven: humans, elves, Frost Giants, and dwarves.
The courage they had demonstrated in their many adventures over the years was legendary. And no one had helped to create, extend, and perpetuate their legend more than Drew Altair both in his journalism and in award-winning best-sellers.
The notes which Drew and his colleague Corwin Klarendes were taking would later be written up as articles in the Capital Intelligencer relating the adventures of their friends in latest campaign against the genocidal trolls.
Of all the foes the Commonwealth of the Long River had fought, only the alien centaurs and the trolls were implacably hostile. Before their extermination, (you couldn't really call it genocide) the centaurs had lived by the hunt alone. Their prey could as easily include sentients like humans, elves, and Frost Giants as it did wild game. Their language was incomprehensible and anyway they were not interested in negotiations with creatures they regarded as food animals or feral livestock.
If they were hungry enough the trolls might eat the flesh of captured humans, but that was not the cause of the war. Normally they slew those who fell into their power and left the bodies to rot or buried them in mass graves for reasons of public health. Without magic of their own and impelled by a merciless religious revelation, the trolls were on a pitiless crusade to extirpate magic on Haven by exterminating all the races who used it.
Even the eastern barbarians, traditional enemies of the Commonwealth, counted on its victory in the ongoing war. They were magic users too. Likely that was why the barbarians had not caused any trouble lately.
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